Williams College has been ranked the country’s top liberal arts college, but its sterling reputation was recently tarnished by choosing comfort over Free Speech.
The College Council, the campus student government, denied the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) certification as a “registered student organization” – despite WIFI meeting all requirements highlighted in the bylaws for student organization recognition.
By turning away WIFI, the school inadvertently rejected potential campus funding that the group had the ability to bring in.
As the group states, it was established “to support Israel and the pro-Israel campus community, as well as to educate the College on issues concerning Israel and the Middle East.”
Three supporters explained in The Williams Record that “our goal is simply to bring an additional perspective into the ongoing campus discourse.”
Unfortunately, the response to this rejection was harsh: “The state of Israel does not need a student group defending its ‘right to exist’ on this campus any more than we need to ‘defend’ the rights of wealthy, straight white men,” wrote two students in The Williams Record.
Interestingly enough, Williams College is home to a counter student organization: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The group advocates against the genocide committed by the Israeli government towards Palestinians.
Robert Leikind, from WBUR, explained the situation: “To advance their cause, SJP supporters often invoke an idea they call ‘anti-normalization.’ One SJP chapter explained the concept this way: ‘We reject any and all collaboration, dialogue and coalition work with Zionist organizations through a strict policy of anti-normalization and encourage our comrades in other organizations to do the same.’
Williams College President, Maud Mandel, took action to overturn the College Council decision. WIFI is now a recognized campus club.
But, why are left-leaning student groups allowed on campus and conservative groups second-guessed?
This issue remains prominent in society today. Many students, including those on elite campuses like Williams College, look to ideas they see as violations of their safe spaces and discriminate against such groups – rather than debating those with whom they disagree.
Turning Point USA is fighting to make college campuses accepting of free thinking, to make campuses a marketplace of ideas, to stop the controversy.
Organizations such as TPUSA advocate for that singular cause: every opinion being valid and up for debate. By the censorship of student organizations at universities such as Williams College, they are hindering the First Amendment and the ability to grow.
The framers of our Constitution sought to protect free and open debate because they feared the effect of suppression of those who thought differently.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government. When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”